Business travel is a major component of client-facing businesses. To satisfy their clients, many businesses must meet their clients on their own turn to ease the onboarding process, learn the ins and outs of a company, and gain a unique perspective of the working relationship. And some businesses have travel built into their very DNA—for example, many hospitality and tourism companies offer employees “familiarization trips” to help them learn more about their out-of-state and international vendors firsthand. Whatever the case, corporate travel services and strategic systems ensure you never fall behind with your travel plans and expenses.
Here are five tips for managing travel expenses for business:
- Maintain a Transparent Travel Policy
- Plan In Advance
- Create Travel Incentive Programs
- Document All Travel Expenses
- Reimburse Quickly
A corporate travel policy is an important part of any growing business. A travel policy is important because it sets the guidelines on what can and cannot be done. Without it, you could end up spending much more money on travel expenses than you should be. A policy eliminates grey areas associated with travel and helps employees understand what’s expected of them on the road.
Once you’ve written your travel policy—which should outline expense categories, non-refundables, and the expense process—it’s crucial to communicate it. Once or twice a year, host a business travel meeting and walk your team through the policy to ensure everyone is on the same page.
It’s also important that you take the time to evaluate and update your travel policy at least once per year. This ensures that your policy is consistently up-to-date and includes the latest technology services. Any time you make updates to your policy, send out a company-wide email announcing those changes in a bulleted, easy-to-digest form.
Not all trips can be planned well in advance, but when they can be, they should be. Planning in advance allows you to save plenty on costs. Spur of the moment trips result in pricier transportation and accommodation. Not only will early planning help you save money, but you’ll also have more flexibility. For example, you may be able to book a hotel that’s in walking or close distance to meetings you’ll have to attend.
By incorporating travel incentive programs, you can help your business curb costs and reward your employees in the process, too. One way you can do this is by partnering with companies you use often in the travel process. For example, American Airlines has a business program that grants rewards to both a business account and an individual’s travel account during a trip. This allows businesses to book travel for their staff using a collective rewards account. Marriott also has a corporate program for companies interested in special rates and premium business services.
Another way you can achieve this is by offering cash rewards for employees that spend under their allocated budgets. For instance, Rocketrip is a platform that allows management teams to create custom travel budgets and identifies ways they can come below the budget. The money saved is then split evenly between the company and the employee.
Google is another great example of how to incentivize business travel. The company rewards employees that spend less by offering future travel credits that unlock great upgrades. By spending less on a few trips, they’re able to splurge on better airline seats and luxurious hotel suites.
You need all the information you can get to score much-needed tax deductions—and this means collecting all receipts and documentation from your employees. To make this easy, have a list on hand of all the types of documents your team should be saving, from dining receipts to city passes and transportation tickets. You could even go a step further by educating your team on why these receipts are so important for the business, which creates a deeper level of transparency between the business and the people that help run it.
Your staff should be a top priority for you, and as such, they should be reimbursed for their expenses quickly. After all, expenses are a two-way street: you wouldn’t want your staff to take their time handing them in, and you shouldn’t take your time getting them turned around. Businesses that offer a smooth and painless reimbursement process help create a higher corporate morale, and this builds trust between the staff and management.